What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an immune response in the small intestine that is triggered by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Over time, this response causes inflammation that damages the lining of the small intestine, disrupting the absorption of certain vital nutrients.
This reaction to gluten specifically affects the tiny, hair-like villi that line the small intestine. The villi are responsible for absorbing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat. The damage resulting from celiac disease makes the villi unable to absorb the nutrients properly for sufficient wellness and development. This can result in weight loss and severe symptoms, which can ultimately deprive the brain, bones, nervous system, liver and other organs of vital nourishment.
Contributing factors to celiac disease
An exact cause of celiac disease is still unknown, but carrying certain genes can increase your risk. If you have a first-degree relative who suffers from celiac disease, you’re more likely to carry these genes. Environmental influences, like infections, may provoke changes in the small intestine of a person who carries these genes. A few other factors that can put you at greater risk for developing celiac disease include:
- A family member with celiac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis
- Down syndrome or Turner syndrome
- Type 1 diabetes
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Microscopic colitis (inflammation of the colon or large intestine)
- Sjogren’s syndrome (immune disorder)
Symptoms of celiac disease
Celiac disease can affect people of all ages, and can even develop later in life. For children who suffer from celiac disease, malabsorption can significantly affect growth and development.
Common symptoms and signs in children
Digestive-related symptoms of celiac disease are most common in infants and children. Symptoms and signs that typically occur in young people often include:
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Stool abnormalities
- Chronic diarrhea
- Irritability or behavioral problems
- Delayed development
- Short stature
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Symptoms and signs of celiac disease common in adults
- Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
- Fatigue, headaches or migraines
- Pain in bones or joints
- Bone loss (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
- Depression or anxiety
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Infertility or frequent miscarriage
- Canker sores in the mouth
- An itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Lowered spleen function (hyposplenism)
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Dental enamel damage
- Numbness and/or tingling in the feet and hands
There’s no cure for celiac disease, but following a gluten-free diet can help to manage symptoms, promote intestinal healing and avoid malabsorption. If you’re suffering from unexplained digestive issues or other symptoms that last longer than two weeks, call the physicians at Pomona Valley Health Centers today at (888) 686-0773 to schedule an appointment.